Qkine secures £1.5M series A funding from leading life science investors to accelerate global scale-up and make key hires to leadership team
Cambridge, UK 08 June 2020: Qkine – a specialist developer and manufacturer of proteins for stem cell, organoid and regenerative medicine applications – today announced the successful closure of a £1.5M series A investment round to accelerate the global scale-up of its commercial operations and make key hires to its leadership team. The funding round attracted support from a wealth of leading life science funds and angel investors, including Parkwalk, a London-based firm that backs world-changing technologies emerging from the UK’s leading universities, who led the round; Jonathan Milner, serial entrepreneur and founder of Abcam; Martlet Capital, a Cambridge-based investor with a growing portfolio of innovative life science companies; and the fast-growing o2h ventures Human Health EIS fund.
As a result of Qkine’s success to date and ever-increasing customer base, the company has also secured investment from its existing supporters, including Cambridge Enterprise and other angel investors, to complete the round.
Re-defining industry standards for growth factor and cytokine biochemical quality
Spun out from the University of Cambridge in 2016, Qkine is re-defining industry standards for growth factor and cytokine biochemical quality to enable more reproducible and cost-effective scaling of stem cell, organoid and regenerative medicine applications. Qkine develops and manufactures highly pure, recombinant growth factors, cytokines and other bioactive proteins using proprietary protein engineering and refolding technology developed by Dr Marko Hyvönen, Qkine Co-Founder and CSO. With few primary manufacturers of these complex bioactive proteins, Qkine’s very stringent purity and bioactivity criteria helps to strengthen the supply chain for stem cell research, biotechnology and drug discovery assays. In parallel, Qkine is applying its innovative protein engineering techniques to develop highly optimised forms of key proteins, helping to overcome core industry challenges such as, protein stability and reproducibility of cell culture. This will enable the scaling of innovative stem cell and organoid systems for applications including, precision medicine, toxicology screening and tissue engineering.
Global scale-up of commercial operations and key hires to leadership team
Qkine’s protein expertise and high-quality products have already attracted a loyal customer following from both leading biotech and pharmaceutical organisations, as well as world-class academic institutions. The successful completion of this series A investment round will enable the next phase of Qkine’s growth, including the roll out of full commercial operations across East Asia, the US and Europe, as well as its expansion into new markets, such as Scandinavia. In addition, the funding will be used to make key appointments to strengthen Qkine’s leadership team and accelerate the company’s scale-up and expansion of its product portfolio.
Alastair Kilgour, Chief Investment Officer, Parkwalk commented: “There is a clear market need for high-quality protein reagents, especially for applications in stem cell biology and organoid research. Qkine has both a compelling technology to meet this need and a highly experienced management team to drive the growth of the business.”
Dr Catherine Elton, CEO and Co-Founder, Qkine added: “Given the challenging circumstances that our industry is currently facing in light of the coronavirus pandemic, we are delighted by the proactive and overwhelming support that we – a UK-based life science manufacturing company – have received from both our existing and new investors. This is not only a testament to the company’s success to date but also highlights the critical need for improving growth factor and cytokine quality within the industry. As we enter the exciting next phase of our growth, we look forward to drawing on the strength of our investor base as we build a leading global supplier of high-quality proteins to support scientists advancing stem cell, organoid and regenerative medicine.”
To discover more about Qkine please visit: www.qkine.com
Sarah Brereton, Director, Limewash
Tel: 07796 583 223
Email: [email protected]
Notes to Editors
Qkine is on a mission to advance stem cell, organoid and regenerative medicine by re-defining industry standards for growth factor and cytokine biochemical quality, which are essential reagents for the sector. Based on proprietary technology developed in the laboratory of Dr Marko Hyvönen, research group leader at the University of Cambridge, Qkine develops and manufactures recombinant growth factors, cytokines and other novel proteins.
Along with setting a new benchmark for protein purity, Qkine uses innovative protein engineering techniques to tackle fundamental biological and scalability challenges that are holding back the stem cell and regenerative medicine sector; for example, recent projects have included the development of optimised R-spondins to replace conditioned media for organoid culture. To give stem cell scientists peace of mind, Qkine manufactures its proteins in a dedicated animal-derived component free (ADCF) laboratory and defines very strict and robust quality criteria, with rigorous purity and bioactivity testing conducted on every batch.
After securing seed funding from Cambridge Enterprise and a quintet of angels in April 2018, as well as being awarded grants by Innovate UK amongst others, the company’s client portfolio has grown rapidly to include leading academic institutions and biotech companies, in addition to attracting interest from multinational pharmaceutical organisations.
About Parkwalk Advisors (“Parkwalk”)
Parkwalk is the largest EIS fund manager by funds raised over the last couple of years, backing world-changing technologies emerging from the UK’s leading universities and research institutions. With £300m of assets under management, it has invested in over 120 companies across its flagship Parkwalk Opportunities EIS Fund as well as the award-winning enterprise and innovation funds Parkwalk manages for the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol and Imperial. Parkwalk invests in businesses creating solutions to real-world challenges, with IP-protected innovations, across a range of sectors including life sciences, AI, quantum computing, advanced materials, genomics, cleantech, future of mobility, MedTech and big data.
About Jonathan Milner
Jonathan, Founder and currently Deputy Chairman of Abcam plc, is an entrepreneur and investor and is passionate about supporting UK life science and high-tech start-ups. He has provided investment and support to over 40 companies and has assisted three technology companies to IPO on the London AIM Stock exchange.
About Martlet Capital
Martlet Capital is an early-stage investor based in Cambridge, providing patient capital to deep technology and life science startups. Martlet invests across a variety of sectors with a focus on entrepreneurial teams with defensible technology, an identified large market and excellent growth potential.
Since its launch in 2011, Martlet has invested in more than 50 companies and experienced several exits from its portfolio, including trade sales to global technology companies and IPOs.
The Martlet team is comprised of experienced investors and entrepreneurs, who in addition to capital, offer support, experience and a network of contacts.
About o2h ventures
o2h ventures Limited launched ‘the o2h human health EIS fund’ in 2018. This is the first S/EIS fund in the UK solely focused on early stage biotech therapeutics and related AI opportunities. The geographic scope of the fund is UK wide including Oxford and London but will target the growing Cambridge biotech cluster. The Fund is structured to be S/EIS compliant providing tax breaks for UK taxpayers.
The o2h team are leaders in the biotech community and have been actively involved as investors, holding various board/industry positions as well as being engaged in grassroots scientific activity for over 20 years. o2h group operate from their proprietary 2.7 acre Mill SciTech Park where they are developing a unique model for incubating small life science companies.
About Cambridge Enterprise
Part of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Enterprise supports academics, researchers, staff and students in achieving knowledge transfer and research impact. We do this by helping innovators, experts and entrepreneurs use commercial avenues to develop their ideas and expertise for the benefit of society, the economy, themselves and the University.
Liaising with organisations both locally and globally, we offer expert advice and support in commercialisation and social enterprise, including help with academic consultancy services, the protection, development and licensing of ideas, new company and social enterprise creation, and seed funding.
About growth factors and cytokines
Growth factors and cytokines are proteins that transmit signals from one cell to another in higher organisms, orchestrating organisation of the developing embryo and regulating biological functions and repair processes in adults. They are used by stem cell, organoid and regenerative medicine scientists to mimic the environment in the human body, allowing carefully synchronised messages to be sent to cells in culture; for example, to tell stem cells to turn into the desired cell type. Innovations in stem cell, organoid and regenerative medicine over the last decade have given rise to applications in disease modelling, drug screening, precision medicine and the development of new therapeutics. In turn, this is driving demand for higher quality and innovative reagents, which are needed to advance these key sectors.